FSD Responds to Concerns Regarding “Guidelines for Best Practices” from Alberta Education

Re: Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions

We have received numerous telephone calls and e-mails from parents whose children attend our schools. We are doing our best to acknowledge receipt in a timely manner, however, due to the high volume it may take some extra time. In the meantime, I want you to know that your feedback is sincerely appreciated and we are carefully reviewing all of it.

Several mutual and legitimate concerns have been expressed by members of the public who have been in contact with us. I wanted to follow-up in an effort to provide you with some reassurance. I also want to provide more information on the process that Foothills School Division is following to meet the Alberta Government’s March 31, 2016 deadline for submission of draft policies/administrative procedures by all school divisions in the province.

Providing safe and caring, welcoming, respectful and inclusive learning environments for ALL students and staff has always been a priority in Foothills School Division, and our current policies and procedures reflect this. In addition, character education is a fundamental component in the overall development of our students. All of our schools work proactively to instill positive values such as respect, empathy, self-esteem, and social responsibility in their students as part of the division’s efforts to promote healthy, respectful relationships within the school community.

As a division, we respect diversity in all of its forms. We believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. We also believe strongly that every child and staff member has the right to learn and work in an environment where they feel safe, cared for and included.

These beliefs are guiding Foothills School Division as we carefully consider our response to the government requirements and guidelines, taking into account the input we have received from many of you.

Several parents have asked for the division’s position on this matter. Understanding that we still have work to do before we are ready to share new and/or revised policies/procedures in DRAFT form with our school community, here is what I can tell you:

1. We are taking into account the rights, needs and interests of ALL students.

2. As I indicated previously, as a public body, our school division must ensure our policies and administrative procedures comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and key pieces of Alberta legislation including the Alberta Human Rights Act and the School Act. However, while the Alberta Government  Guidelines for Best Practices contain “indicators of best practice in action,” this does not mean that every bullet point will be implemented. We intend to take a reasonable approach from a comprehensive, whole school perspective.

3. Development of policy/procedures is being guided by the Board Vision, division policy-making processes (Policy 10  – Policy Making), stakeholder input, and any decisions in law and/or legal advice.

I also wanted to provide you with an overview of the process going forward so that you are aware of key dates and opportunities to comment on DRAFT versions of new and/or revised FSD policies and procedures:

February 10:

  • Draft policies/procedures will be presented to the Board of Trustees for review and discussion.
  • Following the board meeting, according to FSD’s usual practice, the draft documents will be distributed to our stakeholders. Groups included in the policy development feedback process include: 1) the Foothills Administrators’ Association (school administrators); 2) school staffs; 3) school councils; 4) the Foothills ATA local; 5) the Joint Committee established with the ATA Local (when proposed policy or policy amendment relates to working conditions); 6) Foothills CUPE Local; 7) the Foothills Custodial Association; 8) the Association of Drivers of Foothills School Division; and 9) other interested or affected groups and/or individuals as deemed appropriate based on the policy/procedure (e.g. student councils).
  • We will share our draft documents directly with parents through school channels.
  • The draft documents will also be uploaded to the FSD website for input from parents and the broader community.

March 16: Based on public feedback received, documents will be revised (if necessary) and a recommendation presented to the Board of Trustees for their decision.

By March 31: The division’s draft policies/procedures will be submitted to Alberta Education for review as directed by the Province.

If you wish to provide feedback either in advance of the February 10th board meeting or following the release of our draft document(s), please do so in writing to FSDInformation@fsd38.ab.ca. In addition, consider including the Education Minister and your local MLA on the communication. They are the provincial policy makers and it is important for them to hear from their constituents. Contact information for Education Minister David Eggen and Foothills region MLAs can be found on the division’s website.

Thank you for your continuing interest and support for all of our students.

John Bailey
Superintendent of Schools